In the Beginning: Prayer

May 14, 2018

Genesis 1:1-3b

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

3 And God said,


Formless. Empty. Darkness. Deep.

Roll those four words around and off the tip of your tongue a few times, so your ears can hear them.

Formless. Empty. Darkness. Deep.

That’s our problem. We spend far too much energy giving to voice to the problem; to what is not. In doing so, we unwittingly magnify the status quo.

How often in the course of a singe day do I give voice to and so amplify my problems. I speak of this family conflict and that work challenge and this sickness and that global ticking time bomb. It is as though I go around all day long speaking the words:

Formless. Empty. Darkness. Deep.

I even try to convince others of just how formless, empty, dark and deep the problems I face are.

Note who does not do this. God. The Bible does not begin with God rehearsing the problems of the not-yet universe. If God were to say formless, empty, darkness and deep, it would only multiply them exponentially.

At the same time, the Bible does not deny this reality of nothing-ness. Just as rehearsing the reality does not reorder it, neither does denying the problem diminish it. The good news? Chapter 1 does not begin with verse 2. The key is verse 1.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 

The biblical foundation for prayer begins neither with pre-existent nothingness nor with broken everything. Our whole understanding and practice of prayer must begin with the beginning—Genesis 1:1. It means prayer begins with faith. Now, by faith I don’t mean to say the activity of human belief, but the reality of Divine action. Faith is the willful decision of a community of people to live the totality of their existence in the light of God and in the world of God’s making.

Faith is not asking and hoping. Faith means living in an alternative dimension of reality. What if the world we see with our eyes only comprises 10% of reality; or even 1%?

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

No-one ever talks much of “the heavens,” but what if “the heavens” makes up the other 90% or 99%? What if the heavens and the earth were actually a seamless part of a unified whole? What if the fall of humanity breached this unity? And what if the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ and the coming the Holy Spirit inaugurated a new age wherein the heavens have broken in on the earth?

We understand these “what-if’s” as eternal verities, and these eternal verities are not “our” faith. They are “the” faith. As we get past our technical understanding of saying prayers, and seek to understand the deeper milieu of ultimate reality, prayer will take on enormous significance. It will, in fact, enter the realm of world making. That’s what prayer is—world-making speech. This is what God does. Remember now, the last three words of today’s text.

3 And God said, . . . 


Lord Jesus, you are right here, right now. I confess I so often give more focus to what is formless, empty, dark and deep than to the God who created the heavens and the earth. My vision is limited by what I see instead of being anchored in the greater realm of the unseen. I welcome you to crush my thin categories, expand the horizons of my understanding and blow my mind. Right here, Jesus. Right now Jesus. Amen.


  1. How do you find yourself magnifying “formless, empty, darkness and deep” in your life? What would it take to stop this?
  2. Where do you put the percentages? What is seen vs. what is unseen?
  3. What do you think of this understanding of prayer as learning to speak as God speaks?

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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